Learning Shorts: Supporting Universal Design

Creating Accessible Video Content with Closed Captions

by Jennika Smith –

Illustration of hands holding a tablet with closed caption symbol in the center

Normally when we think of closed captions, we think of individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, but captions help support more than just those individuals with a hearing impairment. They can also benefit individuals whose native language is not English, visual and/or verbal learners, and in instances when the audio cannot be heard due to background noise (ex. in public spaces, restaurants, etc.) or a need for quiet (ex. in a library, hospital, etc.).

Close Captions (CC) are text that appear on a video that contains dialogue and audio cues such as music or sound effects. Captions can be either open—always visible as a part of the video—or closed. Closed captions are more common because they allow the viewer to enable and disable the captions as desired. In fact, the FCC actually requires the majority of English and Spanish programming seen on broadcast television in the United States to be closed captioned. Furthermore, ADA Section 508 regulations contain stringent captioning requirements (including captioning for webcasts) for the Federal government and organizations that receive federal funding, which includes most academic institutions.

In the classroom, it is important to keep in mind that over 10% of the population is deaf or have a hearing impairment. Additionally, closed captions are used by visual and/or verbal learners and foreign students whose first language is not English to help them better understand the videos they watch. These students could potentially miss important course content when videos do not include such captions.

Outside of the classroom, captions can help with search engine optimization. If you are part of a committee or program that is using video as a marketing tool for students, search engines can index your videos based on the content of the closed captions. Of course, this works best with video streaming sites like YouTube or Vimeo, which are specifically designed for social sharing and search engine recognition.

At UALR, the Disability Resources Center helps facilitate a majority of the closed captioning for our online video content, but we can help alleviate their workload by creating our own video captions or transcript files. Some software programs, like Camtasia, come with built-in caption capabilities which allow you to export the captions as a separate file—in SRT format—that you can attach to the video. There are also a number of DIY video captioning resources available online like InqScribe, a third party transcription software used by the DRC and STaR.

For more information, 3PlayMedia has an extensive article outlining the different options available including tips for uploading to YouTube and some best practices for captions.

Understanding Universal Design for Learning is part of a semester-long Learning Shorts series on Accessibility and Universal Design in conjunction with the Department of Educational Leadership, the Disability Resource Center, and Scholarly Technology and Resources (STaR).

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